Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: NASCAR’s Scarlet Letter, Qualifying Questions And Title Talk

Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every week, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news, rumors, and controversy. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!

*This Week’s Participants*:
Amy Henderson “(Mondays / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/351/
Tom Bowles “(Editor-In-Chief / Mondays / Bowles-Eye View & Wednesdays / Did You Notice?)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/359/
Mike Neff “(Wednsdays / Full Throttle-Frontstretch Newsletter / Short Track Coordinator)”:https://frontstretch.com/staffinfo/1744/
Kevin Rutherford (Wednesday Commentary Writer)

*Speculation still swirls around AJ Allmendinger’s suspension for a positive drug test. Can a driver make a successful comeback from a positive test, or is his career forever tainted?*

Mike N.: His career is forever tainted, there is no question about that. But that doesn’t mean he can’t make a successful comeback.
Kevin: It all depends on what ended up triggering the positive test. If it was some sort of recreational drug, then yeah, for sure.
Amy: I think the real key in all that is sponsors.  They have to be willing to take a risk with the public eye on them. I do agree with Kevin, too.  If it was say, Tylenol PM vs. a recreational drug, that’s a big difference.
Tom: I think, no matter what happens from here in this world of sponsor perfection A.J. Allmendinger will be tainted goods. The word “suspension” carries some heavy weight. Look, the 2003 Sprint Cup champ who’s _leading the points_ doesn’t even have companies stepping up for all 36 races. Any little thing will doom you, and in A.J.’s case, especially with his lukewarm track record in the sport it’s a very big black eye to overcome.

Can AJ Allmendinger have a successful comeback after a positive drug test, or is his his career forever painted with that brush?

Mike N.: The problem for Allmendinger is going to be his age. AJ is over 30 years old. By the time he completes a program, assuming the “B” test is positive, he’ll be 31. Is he going to get back to the Cup level at that age?
Kevin: I doubt it, Mike — at least not with a well-funded team like Penske. If the test was for something illegal, he’s probably done with a bigger team.
Amy: I heard through the grapevine that Allmendinger wasn’t feeling good at Kentucky. Perhaps he took something OTC that he didn’t realize would test? Also,  he has a new sponsor…an energy drink, whose packaging and website does not list ingredients… makes you wonder if there was something in it he didn’t even know was in there.
Mike N.: Drivers are professional athletes. AJ is very fitness conscious and I know he is pretty regimented in his health regimen. I just think he’d be more conscientious about what he puts in his body than a drink with no ingredients listed.
Tom: It’s a possibility. Unfortunately, right now we’re talking a best-case scenario of ignorance. You’ve got to be aware of what drugs will and will not trigger a positive result. That’s a huge oversight, the price you pay for securing a ride with a top-level team. You don’t see Jeff Gordon making those mistakes.
Mike N.: Right. With the Road to Recovery program, he has to land a ride after that and is there going to be a Cup ride waiting for him? I doubt it. So he’ll have to work through the ranks and, quite frankly, he’s not proven to be that good to be rushed back to Cup.
Tom: Is everyone in agreement that if this “B” sample tests positive, Penske’s going to kick him to the curb? Because I just don’t see a way he stays. Sam Hornish, Jr. is already on a full-court press campaign to land this ride.
Mike N.: If AJ is dumb enough to be drinking something without knowing what the ingredients are then shame on him. I don’t know for certain that Penske will kick him to the curb, though. Roger is a pretty honorable dude. It is going to depend on what the drug actually is.
Tom: Mike, it would be one thing if there was chemistry, they were pushing top-20 in points and you had a chance to make the Chase. But there’s been a season of tough results and now, a mistake… an opening for Roger to let go if he so chooses. And he’s got Sam itching to make the jump and prove he can do it.
Amy: There are also some excellent free agents who haven’t signed deals yet.
Tom: Notice Brad Keselowski hasn’t come out and marched in support of A.J. Yes, he can’t comment on the drugs but no one was stopping him from saying what a great teammate this guy is, how he’s really contributed to the organization. Instead… radio silence. That tells you something right there.
Mike N.: I don’t remember Brad ever standing around arm-in-arm with any of his teammates singing Kumbaya though, Tom.
Tom: Disagree. When Kurt Busch went through his issues, Brad stepped up and was openly supportive. Check back at the Twitter feed, at the very least from November. And he’s made several public statements last year and this one in support of Kurt. I’m just saying in the wake of this failed test, you’ve got one teammate with his mouth shut and the other one trying to write his name on the driver’s door. That’s not exactly an environment that screams, “A.J. returns!”
Amy: Here’s one thing that’s been on my mind…I know NASCAR wants to be thorough, but why aren’t they using a test with faster results?  If this was a recreational drug, that test was taken before the race at Kentucky, right?  So he could have been racing high because the test takes a week?  Why not use an instant read test and then do further testing on the samples later on?
Tom: I’m also perplexed by that, Amy. The way NASCAR did it was so confusing… A.J. acted like he was planning on racing up to an hour before the driver’s meeting.
Mike N.: Right Tom. They didn’t find out until 75 minutes or so before the race.
Tom: Sources claim he was told of the positive test earlier than that, but he certainly wasn’t looking like a guy about to be pulled from a ride according to people who saw him that day.
Amy: There have been other cases as well.  Jeremy Mayfield’s test was before a race.  Shane Hmiel had a positive after a practice/qualifying session.  Yet the results come back a week later, after they’ve already put lives in danger.
Tom: Right. And if you’ve got a positive test in hand… why not pull the driver before the weekend begins? I mean, did the result really come in on a Saturday morning? Don’t most people work during the week? Shouldn’t there have been some sense of urgency here?
Mike N.: I agree Amy but I don’t know much of anything about drug testing. Maybe the quick read tests aren’t considered reliable enough. One thing that I’m curious about: AJ did have an indiscretion in the past with alcohol. Is it possible that this failed test was just an elevated level?
Amy: I don’t think a DUI necessarily means he has an alcohol issue.
Mike N.: I don’t either Amy, but an elevated alcohol level is a violation. If you are over .02 alcohol, it is considered too high.
Amy: It _is_ too high to be driving a racecar, yes, but it’s a leap to say because he had a DUI 2 years ago he’s got a drinking problem. I talked to people who, that same night were at a bar where a high-ranking NASCAR official was seen having several drinks and driving away after… one got lucky, one didn’t.
Mike N.: I’m not saying he has an alcohol problem at all. But .02 isn’t a whole lot of alcohol in your system. He could have had some beers the night before and had too high of a content when they took the test.
Amy: But what driver is going to decide to have a beer before the race?
Mike N.: I’m pretty sure there are drivers who have beers the night before a race.
Amy: He would have had to drink more than a twelve-pack to still have it in his system the next day. Alcohol clears the system at the race of one serving per hour.
Tom: I don’t think you’re right there, Mike. But in the grand scheme of things that DUI hurts AJ in the sense that again, at best it’s a careless mistake. One a lot of people in America make, but careless nonetheless. We talk all the time about holding athletes to a higher standard based on the job they hold. Two careless mistakes of the same type, in two years is a lot to stomach.
Mike N.: I was just throwing out there that it could be alcohol instead of some other drug.
Tom: Well here’s one other thing to consider: NASCAR doesn’t have a long history of drivers failing this drug testing program. On the Cup side, it’s Mayfield and Allmendinger in four years. So that adds to the Scarlet Letter mentality… I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying what is. That means after the Mayfield situation, too, you better believe NASCAR would not have pulled AJ unless all their ducks are lined in a row. They’d have to be incredibly stupid otherwise… can you imagine the reaction if the “B” sample comes back negative? A horrible thing to say, but those people will switch out the freaking test if they have to in order to make sure these results are reaffirmed.
Amy: I sort of think the opposite, Tom.  I think as long as they had a certified positive on the A, they’d suspend until the either got the B or until there was proof otherwise, or until the driver completed their program.  No way they’d take chances. And switching is hard to do when the driver can have an independent expert there for the whole process, including unsealing the initialed vial containing the “B” sample.
Mike N.: I find that hard to believe Tom. The integrity of the testing facility would be at stake if someone found out about it. That would put them out of business. I don’t think finding Allmendinger in violation is worth that.
Tom: Right. But do you not agree NASCAR looks really silly if the “B” sample tests negative? They’ve taken income away and shredded a driver’s reputation for two weeks over a sample that was never positive in the first place.
Mike N.: I don’t. I think they look like they conducted the test like they’re supposed to. If anything, I would think it would validate the whole system.
Amy: No, I don’t think NASCAR is out to take down Allmendinger or Roger Penske.  That’s a little too balck helicopterish for me
Tom: Ugh. You’re misunderstanding where I’m going with this one. I don’t think NASCAR is out to “take down” anyone in particular. They’re just looking to show their drug testing procedures, when they do find a positive test are 100% effective. The sport went through a lot of bad press for how sloppy their handling of drug samples were. Most fans who aren’t going to read too much into this stuff, as much as we are right now will see the headline “B sample tests negative” and go, “Welp, NASCAR screwed up again.” They just won’t put themselves in jeopardy to have that happen…
Amy: I think it depends, Tom, on what it tested for.  They will be more thorough on the chemical breakdown on the B sample, and so it could turn out to be something that will test incorrectly, like a poppyseed bagel.
Kevin: I follow. Yeah, that would definitely be some bad publicity for them if this next one comes back negative.
Amy: Really, to me, I find it hard to pass judgment without knowing what the substance was and how much was there.  Some stuff can stay in the system long after the effect wears off, others don’t. Say you took a Valium Monday…the effects would have long since worn off by Saturday, but it would still test.
Mike N.: I may just be naive but I would think, “NASCAR acted in the best interest of the sport to try and make sure a driver didn’t take to the track with a problem.” Now, we know that it was something that returned a positive but wasn’t really what the test showed.
Amy: I agree with Mike, except to the fact that the results come out a week later.
Tom: I just think in this environment, the way money is hard to come by right now any little thing could be a killer. For AJ, even if the drug is innocuous the label will stick.
Amy: Sadly, I agree. In general, we’ve never seen a driver come back successfully from a positive drug test.
Mike N.: Depending on the drug and how Roger handles it will really determine what happens to AJ. I don’t want to dismiss AJ’s career until we find out that the drug is and how Penske handles it. But if he is put into a program, and then has to find a ride somewhere and work his way back through the ranks he’s probably done in Cup racing.
Kevin: And even if he does make it back to Cup, I doubt it’ll be with anyone worthwhile.
Amy: I agree.  If he had a huge win record, someone would take a chance maybe, but he doesn’t.
Tom: It’s just a sad deal all around this season for AJ. Driver gets a dream ride, top-level opportunity and has every type of bad luck moment possible happen.
Kevin: Yeah, I certainly wasn’t expecting this sort of thing at the beginning of the year, all results/happenings considered.

*There’s always talk surrounding the Chase contenders, but let’s take a look at some of the smaller one- and two-car teams for a minute.  Which of the smaller teams has been most impressive in 2012… and why?*

Amy: Obviously, Phoenix Racing is at the top of the list.  Kurt Busch and Hendrick equipment will do that for you.
Kevin: BK Racing has impressed me in that they’ve hung around a lot better than I thought they would. I know they got a lot of Red Bull stuff, but I kind of figured this would be a tough first year with at least one car outside the top 35.
Amy: I agree, Kevin…they have done very well.  I’ve also been impressed with the steady growth at Germain.
Tom: I actually am impressed with BK Racing, too. They went through some rough wrecks with Landon Cassill but have showed promise at times. Travis Kvapil has quietly piloted the No. 93 to a handful of top-20 finishes… in this near-impossible environment for underdogs, it looks like they might be slowly building something that could blossom a year or so down the road.
Amy: Cassill is way underrrated.  I’d have loved to see what he’d have done in a full season with JR Motorsports in NNS.  He was rookie of the year on a partial schedule.
Mike N.: Landon Cassill is a heck of a driver. He’s been keeping some pretty poorly funded teams in the top 35 for a while now.
Amy: Also take a look at JTG Daugherty.  Bobby Labonte is 24th in points, ahead of Kurt Busch.
Mike N.: Yeah, but Labonte only has one top 10 and that was Saturday night.
Amy: How is being the highest of these drivers in points not showing you anything, Mike? Labonte is ahead of Busch, Smith, Mears, all of them.
Mike N.: They’ve scored one top 10 all season and it was when a wad of cars wrecked coming to the line Saturday night. Busch at least has two top 10s.
Tom: See I disagree with Amy on JTG. Bobby Labonte hasn’t shown me much at all; I know they moved into their own shop in the offseason, but still…
Kevin: JTG has been steady, but I expected a bit more out of them than one top-10 finish at this point.
Amy: And yet the points say Labonte has been better overall…
Mike N.: That just means he hasn’t wrecked as much. I guess if your definition of better is getting to the end and not taking any chances then they’ve been better.
Mike N.: Kurt Busch has spent a lot more time near the front of the pack than Labonte has. Labonte hasn’t led a lap all season.
Amy: And finished at the back more often, too, obviously.
Mike N.: But Busch has eight laps led. Cassill even has two laps led.
Tom: You know who else has been a big disappointment? Regan Smith. I wonder if he’s going to start popping up in free agent talk, his contract is up there and they are not showing progress.
Amy: Front Row is a bit disappointing in that they haven’t shown any kind of steady improvement the way Germain has, despite being in Cup about the same amount of time.
Tom: I think Front Row is pretty much status quo when you look at their results over the last three seasons.
Amy: As much as it sucks, for those teams, keeping equipment intact is a huge part of the equation.
Tom: Exactly. FRM does a pretty good job with that, but their equipment will never allow them a chance to run with the top contenders.
Amy: Right, Tom.  Whereas Germain has made steady gains.
Tom: I have to say, over the past month Germain has looked pretty good with Casey. Early in the season, they were a disaster but it’s coming together now. The problem is, all these names we’re talking about still wind up outside the top 10.
Kevin: Germain’s impressive in that you look at where they were at with Papis and it’s just leaps and bounds better. Of course, some of that’s going to be a driver thing.
Mike N.: I agree that Germain is getting better. Their organization was in a bit of disarray when the season started but they’re getting their ducks in a row.
Amy: Two years ago, Germain was outside the top 35 all year.  Last year they hung in inside all year, and this year have gained about five spots over that.  Slow, but there is improvement.  I’m thinking BK will show the same sort of improvement over the next year or two.  FRM and Tommy Baldwin are more stagnant.
Kevin: Baldwin’s at least had a good year in that they’re able to keep two cars in the Top 35 now as opposed to one. Granted, the 36 is on the bubble, but I’ll bet they’ll stay in there.
Tom: See, I disagree. I think Reutimann has stretched them thin and they would do far better with one car.
Mike N.: In the grand scheme, they’re all battling for scraps. I think TBR is doing pretty well for running a two-car deal this year.
Amy: I think so too.  I kind of wish they’d gotten a little more from Stewart-Haas for all they’re doing to help them with Danica.
Mike N.: We don’t know what SHR did for them. I find it hard to believe Tommy Baldwin did that whole deal just because he wanted to.
Tom: You could see, though, by the way the 36 is still start-and-parking at some places they needed the SHR infusion to survive. It’s just the way of the world these days. Looking ahead to 2013, if Danica moves up full-time to Cup that association won’t be needed anymore. And SHR is having problems finding sponsorship for the No. 39… I worry about TBR over the long-term.
Amy: I do too, which is a shame.  Tommy Baldwin really is one of the good guys. They should drop a car next year.
Mike N.: They probably will unless they somehow manage to land a full-time sponsor.
Tom: OK, here’s a stat that shouldn’t surprise you — but disheartening nonetheless. Of teams with two cars or less, Tony Stewart is the only one to score more than four top-10 finishes.
Amy: Not a surprise at all. Sadly.
Tom: And of course, no single-car team has scored more than two top-10 finishes.

Casey Mears and Germain Racing have shown steady improvement over the last three seasons, putting themselves among the best of the small teams in the Sprint Cup Series.

Mike N.: Ragan has one top 10 finish. Gilliland and Kvapil have none
Tom: Kurt Busch and… a guy we haven’t talked about … Trevor Bayne both have two.
Amy: Bayne is another talented driver who deserves better.  I hope at least he’ll get the RFR Nationwide entry next year.
Mike N.: Assuming RFR has a Nationwide team next season.
Tom: That’s the plan, guys… Bayne will slide into the ride Stenhouse will vacate when he moves into the No. 17.
Mike N.: I don’t know who is going to sponsor it.
Amy: Heck, I wish some of those drivers who get a bad rap from the fans because they run for these small teams could have a couple years in a top-funded NNS car or Truck team instead of the back of the Cup Series…it would be great fun to watch and some of them would really surprise people.
Mike N.: When you get right down to it. This is always a sport of haves and have nots. And the have nots really don’t have a shot at competing with the haves. Of the have not teams, Phoenix racing is the best and that is mostly because of the driver.
Tom: Again, I look more at the disappointments here than the major gains. Regan Smith was expected to do better… it will be interesting to see what happens at the No. 78. Busch’s performance has been strong, but it’s also expected.
Mike N.: I do wonder, back to Regan Smith, if RCR bringing Trucks and Nationwide back in house has hampered the assistance they give to Furniture Row. Hell, RCR only has one driver with more than four top-10 finishes this year.

*Tony Stewart made an impressive run from 42nd place to win at Daytona.  Stewart qualified on the outside pole but had his time disallowed for an air hose violation.  Should a locked-in driver still be allowed to start a race if his time is thrown out?  And if he is… should his crew chief be on the box?*

Mike N.: Based on the rules that we race under, they should be allowed to run. Until the top 35 rule goes away, and it isn’t going to any time soon, you won’t see a driver go home for an illegal car.
Amy: No and no. If you get the time tossed, the top 35 rule should be null and void.  Not cool that a legal car goes home instead.
Tom: Amy sounds harsh, but she’s also right. Qualifying at the plate races, with the top-35 rule has become such a joke… why wouldn’t I stretch the limits in qualifying, to see what I can get away with if I’m locked in to make the race anyways? Worst case, NASCAR catches it and I’ll start at the rear, where I can ride to avoid a wreck anyways. Best case, they _don’t_ catch it and I’m good to go with a little extra horsepower for 400 miles.
Amy: The rule could be easily amended to exclude cheating.
Mike N.: It doesn’t matter whether it is a plate track or not. If you’re locked in, do you really have any reason to not try stuff in qualifying? Especially when crew chiefs on probation don’t receive any further punishment?
Tom: Mike, how funny was it on Saturday to hear Brian France say that NASCAR won’t use gimmicks? What the heck is this top-35 rule then?
Amy: And the Chase, Tom…yet another gimmick. Anyways, Addington should not have been on the box at Daytona.  The hose gave the No. 14 a significant aero advantage.  In the past, crew chiefs caught with blatant infractions have been sent home immediately.  Chad Knaus and Todd Berrier both come to mind.
Mike N.: Significant advantage? I think that is a stretch Amy. Newman was within .002 seconds in qualifying, I believe.
Amy: According to what I read, the way the hose was rigged gave an aero advantage.  And it was done for competition as the car qualified that way.
Tom: The sad thing is, if a car outside the top 35 was hit with the same violation, they’d go home. That’s a clear inequality.
Mike N.: I agree Tom. It is bogus that a non top-35 team goes home with a violation like that while a locked in team just goes to the back.
Tom: I know it’s a whole other can of worms, but I’m a fan of two rounds of qualifying. You lock in the top 25, then whoever doesn’t get “locked in” qualifies again. That means if a time is tossed out, everyone is on the same page and you have another chance.
Mike N.: Me too, Tom. Honestly, I’d really like to see heat races, but that will never happen.
Amy: I agree, Tom.  The ultimate penalty for a qualifying infraction should be the same for everyone… not racing.
Tom: And of course, no top 35 rule… just provisionals. That puts the importance back on qualifying and gives an advantage back to those who post the best speeds. The 25 best guys can work on race setup Saturday morning while the rest are scrambling to make the field.
Mike N.: Yep. And if someone has a mechanical problem in qualifying they have a second chance to make the field. If you can’t get it done in two tries, you don’t deserve to race.
Amy: I agree completely, Tom.  They way they qualified in the 1990s with two rounds and a few provisionals worked — and it made qualifying actually interesting to watch. I don’t know why it’s even televised anymore, it’s boring as heck.
Mike N.: That’s why heat races would be much more enjoyable.
Amy: I agree.  The IndyCar race used them at Iowa and it was so cool to see.
Mike N.: They also use them at local short tracks all of the time. If gives drivers who aren’t good qualifiers a chance to improve their position.
Kevin: It would definitely be interesting to see heat races at least attempted at a few tracks to see how it works. That would be cool.
Amy: But I do think NASCAR has to be more clear on any types of penalties, regardless of qualifying.  Either it should warrant an immediate suspension, or it never should.  Either they should go home or not go home.
Kevin: That’s why I like the idea of two-day (or at least two-session) qualifying — if your car has an issue, fix it, go back out, and whatever happens happens. If it’s still wrong, you’re out of luck.
Tom: I think keeping Addington off the box would be a true disadvantage. See, the penalty system NASCAR uses doesn’t work the most at plate races. If, say, you’re at New Hampshire this weekend and your time is disallowed, making you start 42nd that’s tough if not impossible to make up. But at Daytona, over 400 miles where you start makes absolutely no difference. So blame the plate racing somewhat, too.
Mike N.: The thing about that though Tom is crew chiefs do the least amount of work on a plate track.
Tom: Yeah but it would at the very least be some sort of inconvenience for the crew. They’d have to rearrange things… Addington not on top of the box could cause chaos or some disorganization during a pit stop. Something, anything would be better than what they have now. Because slaps on the wrist encourage future bad behavior.
Amy: I don’t know, Tom.  It’s been done when cars have got to the back for engine changes etc. at non-plate tracks. Penalties need to be clear and structured.  One level for something in opening tech (i.e. fix it and come back, losing practice time in the process. That’s enough of a penalty), another level for qualifying.  Sorry, no time, no race…and a third for stuff found after a race if the team can’t prove a broken part. Addington should have been sent home immediately, as should Danny Stockman of Austin Dillon’s team.
Tom: Bottom line, what NASCAR did makes no sense. Although you have to give Stewart props for the way he managed that race… that guy knows how to drive Daytona in July. Too bad he can’t transfer those skills over in the Wintertime.
Mike N.: Stewart’s day will come in the 500. He’s too good at Daytona for it not to.

*In the last month or so, the Nationwide Series title seems to be the trophy no one wants to win. Austin Dillon has failed inspection twice, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has wrecked multiple times and point leader Elliott Sadler hasn’t had a top-5 finish since Charlotte. Heading into the summer, who is the new title favorite and with Hornish closing in, can this three-car battle become four?*

Mike N.: Hornish could make it a battle but if he’s in a Cup car, that might change things. In reality it is a three car battle with Dillon looking like the favorite after their dominance at Kentucky.
Amy: I agree that if Hornish goes to the 22 permanently in Cup, it changes things.  If that happens, it’s definitely a three-way battle.
Kevin: Agreed with Mike on Hornish. It’s gonna be a three-car battle, most likely, with Dillon seeming to have the edge right now. If Hornish _doesn’t_ go to Cup, he definitely has a shot at it if the other three keep having issues.
Tom: I’m impressed by how Hornish has crept back into it. But in the end, I think you need to win races and I’m not sure he’s capable of rolling off two, three in a row.
Amy: I’m not sure 35 back is quite “in it” just yet.  If he gains another 15 points, he’s in it. I still think the favorite is Stenhouse.  He’s had some rotten luck but is only 18 points back.
Tom: Right… the honor of being able to rip off multiple wins goes to Stenhouse and Dillon. Right now, even with the inspection failures and pending suspension you have to make Dillon the favorite… he’s gotten stronger as the season has progressed. Just like Kenseth is a lame duck at the No. 17, towards the end of the season Stenhouse is going to have to be careful not to look toward Cup.
Mike N.: 18 points is a lot to overcome in the current point system. With the series going to seven intermediate tracks that is going to be a big plus for Dillon.
Kevin: That’s my worry with Stenhouse. I hope he still goes for this championship and doesn’t get content because he’s going to Cup next year regardless.
Tom: On the flip side, Sadler, while a nice story just hasn’t had the speed in his car for about the past two months. He’s the point leader no one is talking about … because right now, he looks like a placeholder.
Mike N.: One other thing to consider is there is not a race at Talladega for Nationwide in the fall. That is one wildcard that they don’t have to possibly mix up the points dramatically. When the Nationwide series hits the homestretch, they race at Kentucky, Charlotte, Kansas and Texas in the last seven races. That is going to play into Dillon’s hands the way they ran at Kentucky.
Kevin: I think Dillon’s got this, as long as his team can keep his car legal.
Mike N.: The one factor that will play into Stenhouse’s favor is that Sadler and Dillon are from the same organization. RFR can focus everything on Stenhouse while RCR will be splitting efforts between two drivers.

*Predictions for Loudon?*

Amy: I’m going with one of two drivers to have a top 10 average finish at the track… Jimmie Johnson.
Mike N.: I’m going to take Ryan Newman to put his second win on the ledger this weekend.
Tom: I think, for New Hampshire you’ve got to look at the momentum over in Tony Stewart’s camp. They dominated the race here last July, between Stewart and Ryan Newman… I’m picking the No. 14.
Kevin: Junior over here. I think he’ll be solid.

*Mirror Predictions 2012*

Welcome to our sixth consecutive year of Mirror Predictions! Each week, our experts take the end of this column to tell us who the winner of each Cup race will be. But as we all know, predicting the future is difficult if not completely impossible … so how do you know which writer you can trust when you put your own reputation (or money) on the line?

That’s why we came up with our Mirror Predictions Chart. The scoring for this year is simple:

Prediction Scoring
+5 – Win
+3 – Top 5
+1 – Top 10
0 – 11th-20th
-1 – 21st-30th
-2 – 31st-40th
-3 – 41st-43rd

Quaker State 400 Results

*Writer* *Pick* *Finishing Position* *Points*
Amy Henderson Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 15th 0
Beth Lunkenheimer Kurt Busch 35th -2
Phil Allaway Kevin Harvick 23rd -1
Rick Lunkenheimer Tony Stewart 1st 5

_You can “click here”:https://frontstretch.com/md/37520/ to see race results from the full season._

*Points Standings*

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Kevin Rutherford 30 13 *2* *8* 11
Mike Neff 26 -4 16 1 7 11
Amy Henderson 24 -6 19 1 7 *13*
Phil Allaway 18 -12 18 1 5 10
Beth Lunkenheimer 5 -25 11 1 2 3
Rick Lunkenheimer 5 -25 1 1 1 1
Matt Stallknecht 5 -25 1 1 1 1
Tom Bowles 3 -27 2 1 1 1
Tony Lumbis 1 -29 1 0 0 1
Jeff Meyer 0 -30 1 0 0 0
Jesse Medford -2 -32 1 0 0 0
Vito Pugliese -2 -32 1 0 0 0

*Connect with Tom!*

“Contact Tom Bowles”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14345/

*Connect with Amy!*

“Contact Amy Henderson”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14352/

*Connect with Kevin!*

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*Connect with Mike!*

“Contact Mike Neff”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14354/

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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